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Musings on Entrepreneurship

The internet is an agent of change, the catalyst of the 24/7 news cycle and the unprecedented capriciousness of global financial markets. Social media eliminated barriers to market entry, reduced start-up costs and gave entrepreneurs comprehensive access to their buyers. In whole, the web has provided a low-cost, low-capital platform for enterprising individuals to build the business of their dreams.

Folks who, twenty years ago, would have never thought of themselves as business people now, by virtue of these changes, must do just that. Writers can no longer just be writers. Artists can no longer just be artists. The countering forces of technology have subsumed the once critical role of PR in the media. The publishing industry, too, is struggling to maintain its purpose in an unfamiliar environment. Those not on the technology bus ignore these trends at their own peril.

It may be that we’ve reached a point where the distinction of being “online” has lost its utility. As Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walter Mossberg once told consulting guru Alan Weiss, “Just as you don’t announce you’re plugging into the electric grid when you use a hair dryer or television, we’re also going to stop saying we’re ‘going online’ because we’ll be online at all times.”

To sustain an existence in this new economy, a paradigm shift is in order. For many, the paint-by-numbers methodology of working one’s way up the corporate hierarchy is no longer a viable career path. Today, there is opportunity at every turn. The cost to break into the consciousness of potential customers has reached zero. You and your brand can be anywhere. The only cost is time.

This creative destruction has merited a shift toward irregularly distributed consumer markets, where if an enterprise can sustain “1,000 True Fans” and secure a “Long Tail” niche, the business, if managed properly, can prove remunerative.

Yet despite all this, the principles of good business remain unchanged. The guiding norms and rules of our economy have stayed largely the same. Decades of focused learning and research on best practices are, sadly, getting thrown out the window, replaced with flavor of the day thinking. Time will reward those who have learned from the ones who came before them. Master the fundamental principles of business and you will thrive.

Every industry will always be faced with new competitors, new technologies and new challenges. But it is those businesses that can maintain their core while adapting to a changing environment that will succeed. By planning ahead, by setting a strategy and working backward from that perceived future as to how the company will look, act, and feel, you can begin taking the actions today that will predispose you to success tomorrow.

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